In 2014 I showed Mami a physical copy of my published short story, “Back to El Polvazo.” She exclaimed, “¡Quien se imaginaría que una muchachita que vino de Moncion tan chiquita iba a crecer a ser tan inteligente y curiosa!”
My family migrated from Dominican Republic to New Jersey during Clinton’s first term. I have no memories of my time in D.R. but I have all the stories Mami and the rest of my family have told me about El Polvazo (sort of a term of endearment for a peculiar little mountain town, Corocito).
Despite being raised far away from the motherland, in my household we adhered to traditional Dominican customs – church every Sunday, rice and beans EVERY SINGLE DAY, and at some point we even had chickens in our backyard.
Elementary school was an interesting experience. From Kindergarten to Third Grade I was in ESL courses and thus labeled as a bilingual kid (sounds harmless, but the other kids in my school said it with a nasty connotation and in a derogatory manner). Being bilingual meant being other; it meant being subjected to antagonizing questions such as “what are you?” Having a phonetically complex name did not help my cause.
How is one supposed to pronounce Suleica?
The correct way is sue-lay-kah. The wrong way is su-lee-see-ah, su-loo-kah, cecilia, or any other misunderstood variation of the spelling of my name.
Growing up, I felt disconnected from my name, from who I was. Who was I? A racially ambiguous girl with a natural bindi perfectly placed inbetween her eyebrows with an ethnic name that no one could pronounce. My entire being constantly called into question, oftentimes teased for simply existing.
My struggles were scribed into a Patrick Star composition notebook, hidden under my mattress to avoid a breach of privacy. I was 11 and convinced that I could write myself into a better reality.
My early writings were fiction. I wrote about parallel universes in which I was part of a trio dedicated to saving others. I wrote about love before I knew what love was. I wrote about death, mourning people I never met. I wrote pages of fantasy thematically concerned with the absence of a male figure. I also summarized my days in hopes of one day back tracking and making sense of who I am and what my purpose in this world is.
I am still that conflicted 11 year old girl seeking to make sense of things by way of writing. As expected, I graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in English and minors in Philosophy and Political Science. I spent majority of my time at Rutgers in philosophy and creative writing classes, honing my ability to write essays and short stories. My short story Back to El Polvazo was published in The Anthologist, Rutgers’ Literary Magazine.
I love how carefully chosen words can craft beautiful sentences, how such sentences juxtaposed can form a powerful paragraph, how the placement of such paragraphs can create a compelling story, and how that story can become immortal. What I love most, however, is how people of different backgrounds can relate to one story, one shared experienced.
Sulosophy is my way of sharing my story and experiences. By doing so, I hope to connect with my readers and encourage them to introspect and share their own stories.